Friday, Town Square

Micha Shagrir
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On top of his film and television body of work, Micha Shagrir was also a news reporter, radio presenter, and journalist. Not one to ever recoil from calling out Israeli society’s indifference and complacency, Shagrir would always look reality in the eye and commit to exhaustive, rigorous research of his every subject matter. Here, when he turns his camera onto Jerusalem’s Zion Square – where Ben Yahuda St., Jaffa Road, and Nahalat Shiv’a St. all meet – at the very beating heart of Jerusalem, Shagrir does not stop at nostalgia and also shines a light on the city’s many still-open wounds.
Shagrir brings us a collection of intertwining stories which, together, form a patchwork of Jerusalem life: both old and new, Israeli and Palestinian, imaginary and real. He lingers on the city centre’s old cinemas, with a special emphasis on the Zion film theatre where Jewish-Arab partnerships were struck up – both behind the screen as cinema owners, and in front of it, as filmgoers.
The film explores the ultimate failure of this partnership through a series of historic moments which the cinema was part of, including the establishing of the State of Israel, and the country’s various wars and conflicts. In a time when a television set was a scarce commodity in people’s homes, the Jerusalem cinema was the place everyone turned to for their current affairs fix, packaged as newsreels which the cinema would show ahead of the evening’s main feature film presentation. Here, for the first time on Israeli screens, Shagrir dives into the subject of Jerusalem cinemas as joint businesses, co-owned by Jewish and Palestinian families. Of course, the utopia which the big screens had enticed viewers with at the time through Bollywood musicals, Hollywood Westerns, and so on was ultimately doomed; and indeed, it all came crashing down upon the launch of Israeli television and the subsequent changes in filmgoers’ leisure and entertainment habits.
The closing down of the local cinemas marked the tipping point of no return in relations between Jerusalemite Palestinians and Jews. The city’s underlying tensions caried over well into the 1990s at the time this film was shooting, and never did cease – even whilst leaders of both sides were sat together, fleshing out the Oslo Accords.

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